Frantic guitar rifts and drunken locals were order of the day, as London four piece The Rifles performed a memorable but slightly questionable set at Exeter’s Lemon Grove on 11 November.
With the band touring as part of the promotion for new album, None The Wiser, released earlier this year, it was somewhat understandable to see The Lemon Grove as less than full capacity as support band The Mono Polys took to the stage.
Watched by little more than twenty people in the gaping venue, The Mono Polys did their best to show those sat at the bar getting drinks what they were missing. Their brand of moody indie guitar rock was powerfully delivered but unfortunately it strays a little too close to the path extremely well trodden by almost every indie guitar band since the year 2003… perhaps a change of direction is required.
Despite a fourty minute of so gap in-between The Mono Polys departing the stage and The Rifles arriving, the venue is far from packed as the boys from Chingford take up their positions and begin their set.
The band make the intriguing decision to open the set with the relatively unknown ‘Science in Violence,’ the opener to 2009’s Great Escape. Nevertheless, the powerful chorus “The world is ours and ours alone” is chanted throughout the venue.
Sticking with their second album for the time being, the foursome launch straight into ‘Sometimes,’ before bringing two new tracks ‘Heebie Jeebies’ and ‘Go Lucky’ into the fray. The sound is crisp and clear, with upbeat melodies and fast paced rifts entertaining the increasingly raucous audience.
There were more surprises in store yet as lead singer Joel Stoker launches into ‘Darling Girl’ from the band’s self titled EP released back in 2008, much to the delight of a small group of hardcore fans down the front of the venue.
This is followed by ‘The Great Escape,’ a personal favourite which strikes a chord with the largely working-class following The Rifles have accumulated over ten years of touring. “Go put your last five pounds on the lottery, if you’re not in it to win it well then you wont receive” drawls Stoker.
The set continues at a relentless pace, with the band interchanging old hits such as ‘Peace & Quiet’ with new tracks such as ‘Minute Mile’ and ‘Catch her in the Rye.’ An acoustic segment slows the pace, with both Stoker and guitarist Lucas Crowther making quips about the weather. Crowther draws laughs by expressing his delight at discovering a vending machine which “sells umbrellas” at the venue.
The acoustic segment, featuring ‘Everline’ and ‘Coming Home’ from 2010’s Freedom Run, is particularly well received by the diehard fans, but doesn’t quite do enough to win over the room, and it is only when the rest of the band return for an emphatic finale featuring old favourites ‘Romeo and Julie’ and ‘The General,’ as well as new track ‘Under and Over,’ that the audience really get going again.
This was undoubtedly a strong performance from The Rifles. Yet, as they depart from the stage I find myself a little disappointed.
Perhaps it was just the small audience, but I couldn’t quite help but feel something else was missing from this set. Seven tracks from latest album None The Wiser was a little cheeky given the £17 price of a ticket, but what was more surprising was the exclusion of ‘Local Boy’ and ‘Winter Calls,’ two of the band’s most well known and best numbers.
Of course, the decision over what tracks to play remains in the hands of the band. However, with a venue less than half full, it might be wise to at least play your biggest hits.
The Rifles Played
Science in Violence
The Great Escape
Shoot From the Lip
Peace and Quiet
Tangled Up in Love
Catch her in the Rye
Spend a Lifetime
The Hardest Place to Find Me
Out in the Past
Romeo & Julie
You Win Some
Under & Over